Tuesday, December 28, 2010

God's $15

God’s $15 - Mari's Story

Knowing that I tend to over-think and over-analyze most everything I do, I decided to act, impulsively if necessary, in putting my $5 of God’s money to work. Nevertheless, as fine opportunities presented themselves, I found myself in the midst of contingency planning during the past few weeks, over-planning my responses to each.

Shortly after being given the $5, the on-line “Give to the Max Day”celebration of GiveMN.org occurred in support of the many nonprofit organizations in Minnesota. So, I donated my usual year-end contribution plus 50% more plus an additional $5 of God’s money to one of my favorite charities. Donations given above usual contributions were matched, so that incentive, in addition to the worthy work of the organization, provided an easy basis for giving. I called this opportunity Plan A because it felt great to double the $5 for a good cause...  But there was an aspect of passivity to the giving. I was satisfied with Plan A, but decided to be watchful for a Plan B opportunity.

Plan B presented itself when a friend, who is a special education teacher, told me of her plan for some of her senior students. To help celebrate and remember their senior year, she was starting a scrapbook project with them. Supplies were needed. So, I happily donated $5 to the cause. Plan B was just as satisfying, if not more, as Plan A. Still, I decided to be watchful for a Plan C opportunity because, although I’m willing to help friends when needed, it was her idea. (I told you I tend to over-analyze most everything.)

I began to wonder if a Plan C would present itself (and how much in $5 opportunities this project was going to cost me) - when it occurred in the most unlikely of circumstances.

The buzzer rang at the outside door to my work office area on a Friday afternoon at about 5:00 pm. I’m rarely in the office at that time, but I was finishing work from an all-day board meeting and preparing work for another board meeting scheduled for the next day. Tired, weary, working by myself in the large building, and not expecting anyone, I toyed with the idea of not answering the buzzer. After some thought, I did respond and a woman identifying herself as Evangelist Bettie requested time to discuss her very important version of God’s work. Now, I really wanted to send her away – I was tired after a long week and in no mood to talk with anyone.

For some reason, I let her in. She rushed past me to place a manilla folder on the office counter, and then handed me a simply-made flyer from the folder (which contained, I noticed, a few dollar bills mixed with the flyers). She breathlessly began her spiel of how her church organization of 25 people in Brooklyn Center is collecting money for holiday fruit baskets for a growing list of people in need – more than they could handle.

I was totally puzzled by her request, because solicitors are rare at the office - especially since my office is in St. Paul (not even close to Brooklyn Center) in a nondescript office building on a secondary street... I queried her about making cold calls and going from office to office to solicit funds and found myself admonishing her about being inefficient in her fundraising efforts. (Remember, I was tired.)

She responded by saying that she gets in her car and the Lord takes her to whoever might have $5 to spare. I looked at the flyer and noticed the request for $5 for a fruit basket for a family in need. It was as if the Lord was flashing a blinking neon sign saying THIS IS YOUR PLAN C!

I explained to her about the St. Paul’s UMC project and gave her $5. Evangelist Bettie was convinced that it was the Lord’s guidance that brought her to my office. She requested my business card so I may have further contact with her. (Maybe we will talk about fundraising tips – tips which she may not need.) She seems to have a Contact who knows much more than me about who has $5 to give.

Mari

Plan D: Get a $10 refund from God or St. Paul’s.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lewis House

"The St. Paul's United Methodist Men's group, during this Christmas season of 2010, made the decision to contribute funds towards the purchase of children's toys and clothes (pajamas) in order to provide these gifts to the children staying at the Lewis House over the holidays. 

The Lewis House offers a safe home for abused women and their children.  UMM sincerely believes that these children were likely not going to recieve any presents for Christmas and it is our thought that our gifts certainly can bring some joy to these children and their mothers."

Dick R.

And I have it under good authority that a LOT more than $5 per person was contributed!  Our Men's group has been a wonderful blessing to the Lewis House.  Wonderful job, Men!

Mary

"Mary's world was surely as turbulent as ours, and the future must have looked grim and foreboding.  And yet she brings this total offering of herself to God and to whatever God has in store for her.  She is a model for our time of one who demonstrated complete trust in God when the world around her seemed to be gripped by fear and uncertainty.  Perhaps she found this deep trust in God because she practiced walking in God's presence everyday.  Can we remind each other that we too walk in God's presence every day?"
--Reuben P. Job, "When You Pray"

Mary reminds us what it means to trust in God with our whole self - our whole life. 

We're not alone - we walk this journey together!

So as Christmas comes close... let us celebrate together!  Let us trust in the greatest gift of all - that God loves us and is with us.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Need Ideas?

"Here's another idea for those who have not yet spent their $5. It would especially help if a couple people want to put their money together.

The Sibley High School librarian could use $$ to help buy books for the Kindles she has in her library (very popular program)."

Check out the Mendota Heights Patch article about this cause!

Thanks, Carol, for the heads up!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Update

On eo four church members graciously used their $5 to provide a Christmas gift to a neighbor child (not knowing if they celebrate Christmas or not - but being sure to invite them to church).  Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, our prompts towards a life with God may not be taken...  But between respectful people, can still be the start of a relationship! 

Here was the response to the gift:

"Well, as I thought, my neighbors don't celebrate Christmas or any other holiday.  I know this as they did respond by typing out a short letter stating such. However, interesting statement at close.... "I pray that you understand and respect our beliefs. You are a blessing for reaching out to us." I find it encouraging that they took time to give me a personal response with a firsthand delivery and will continue to pray for their household and maintain whatever contact I am able."

Remember - all we can do is plant a seed.  We're just helping God out!  So don't be discouraged - rejoice in a new relationship!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kiva.org

"We finally spent our $5. We even added some. It sounds like a worthwhile cause.
Merry Christmas!"

Beda and Tom L.

Here is the link to the Kiva.org microloan they sponsored:  Meloma Group.
Feel free to follow the progress!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fundraising Update

"I've been busy baking cookies this week, and I'm now up to $325 in donations. Thanks again for leading the effort at the church."

Jill E. and Family

They plan to donate the money to the Missions Team at St. Paul's UMC.  Nice work, guys!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gifts of Grace

"We long for a world where righteousness is at home. 

It is a world envisioned by the prophets and saints of every age.  It is a vision that is reflected in Mary's song and is still the prayer on the lips of the faithful everywhere.  We yearn for a world where justice, fairness, equality, goodness, integrity, and well-doing are modeled in industry, government, school, home, and individual life.  Deep in our hearts we know that it is a way of living that will result in a deep sense of well-being and peace for everyone. 

However, much as we would like to, most of us do not have the wisdom or the power to transform the world.  But we do have the wisdom and power to permit God to transform us.  In our lives, and now and then in the world where we live, righteousness will be at home. 

You and I can become those persons who carry these gifts of grace to the world."
--Reuben P. Job, from When You Pray

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Celebration Update

This past Sunday, following worship, many of us joined together in the fellowship room for peanut butter sandwiches (with ALL the fixins), cake, and a chance to share our "Living A Better Story" experiences.  I thought for sure our small turn-out, due to the snow storm, would keep people from staying and telling their stories...  But NO!  People were jumping at the chance to tell where God led them with their $5!

Let's see, here's some summaries of the cool things we heard people did with their $5:

Kristi A. bought wool socks for a homeless man - and was happy to hear him tell her the next day, "My feet stayed warm all day!"

Jo B. was buying mittens for her 'bell-ringing' granddaughter and in the process saw another bell ringer without warm gloves - so bought her some, too!  She was so excited, she wanted to know why Jo did such a nice thing and when Jo told her, the woman asked what church Jo was from!

Janet C. bought a bag of groceries for Neighbor's Inc - a hungry family will have a nice meal thanks to that purchase!

Carol R. bought a 95 year-old grocery bagger, at the store, lunch!

Corrine S. gave the money to a young girl (the granddaughter of a friend's care-giver) to buy her grandma a Christmas present!

Jeanette W. and her daughter, Maggi, decided to give theirs to Jeanette's office "Adopt a Family" project.  When Maggi gave money to the project, other office workers were inspired by her generosity and gave more!  The family they adopted would have a wonderful Christmas!

These are a few stories... and some of the ones already on the blog were told to the group as well.  What a wonderful sharing of so many acts of generosity - many of which included the story of why we were doing such things...  That we were inspired by our church and the love of God.

This week, we're going to take some time during the fellowship hour to tell more stories!  So if you missed last week, please plan to stay and hear more tales of inspiration and generosity!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Union Gospel Mission

In a typical year Yvonne and I make annual gifts to numerous charities and because of the Living a Better Story project we decided to look for something different.

As the days passed we thought and prayed about what we should do with our $5.  We soon found that almost on a daily basis we read or heard about people or groups of people who were in need of help.  Trying to decide which one to choose became increasingly difficult.

This year we were having Thanksgiving at our home and we were expecting upwards of 25 people for dinner.  While in the process of planning the meal we saw an ad in the Pioneer Press that caught our attention.  It stated that a gift of only $19.20 would provide thanksgiving dinner for ten homeless people at the Union Gospel Mission.

The more we thought about it the more convinced we became that because we were so blessed to have to much for our dinner it made so much sense to give to those who had so little.  Our gift included enough to provide 50 meals and other care for those in need.

Our thanks to St. Paul's United Methodist Church and to those who had the vision and courage to offer this opportunity to make our Thanksgiving so special.

Bob and Yvonne M.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Salvation Army

Dear Megan and Penny, you presented me with a 5 dollar bill and asked me to do something with it, other than dontate it back to the church.

After much thought and praying, I decided to donate it to the Salvation Army, who has a wonderful record of doing good with the majority of the money they receive. I also remembered that the bible said something about "10 fold" so I decided it would be more appropriate to donate a total of $50 which equals the "10 fold".

Here is how I did it. Dawn and I found an 80 year old Salvation Army bell ringer and I had Dawn take pictures of both of us after I explained what I was doing and why. Bless her soul! She kept ringing her bell even as I talked to her explaining how I got the $5 and why I was putting another $45 in the pot. She even told us why she was ringing the bell, and that she was a mother with 12 children (6 girls and 6 boys). Her husband passed away 6 years ago. I realize the pictures really aren't necessary to prove that I tried to do something good with the money, but here they are anyway.

Love, Chuck E.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fundraising

Here is an update on the Edelmans' living a better story effort. I sent the email below to several friends.


-----------------------------------------------------------------
Craving holiday cookies, but too busy to bake? Let me do the baking for you! Sugar cookies, spritz cookies, white-chocolate covered pretzels, peanut butter blossoms with Hershey's kisses, . . . anything you like.

I will buy the ingredients, make the treats, and deliver them right to your doorstep. The only thing I ask in return is that you make a small donation to our church's mission fund. Our church (St. Paul's United Methodist Church) is encouraging us to come up with creative fundraising ideas to support our missions during the month of December, and baking cookies sounded like fun to me. Jake and Tommy have also volunteered to raise money by shoveling driveways, so feel free to call them if we get any snow.

If you are interested in cookies or snow removal . . . just let us know!

Happy Holidays!

Jill
------------------------------------------------------------------

We've had a few snowstorms, but nobody has called the boys to shovel yet. (Tommy has been quite thankful for this. When the phone rings after a snowfall, he usually runs and hides for fear that someone will call looking for his shovelling services.) I've received several calls for cookies, and I've been happily baking away. So far, I've received $125 in donations to the "missions fund" of St. Paul's UMC. I have several more cookie orders to deliver next week, so I expect a little more money to trickle in. Also, much to Tommy's dismay, significant snow is forecast for this weekend, so the boys may also be earning some money as well. :)

Thanks for introducing this effort, it has made our Advent season very memorable!

Thanks, Jill

Friday, December 10, 2010

Celebration!

Just a reminder - this Sunday we will be celebrating all the amazing stories that have come from the "Living  A Better Story" experiment! 

Have you used your $5?  Come and share your story!  Incredible stories AND simple stories are welcome!  We want to hear ALL the ways God's money is reaching out in the world!

Haven't used your $5 yet?  Come anyway!  Hear what others have done - it might spark some ideas for you!  (I know I've had a couple of things sparked from some of the stories all ready told...)

I keep telling you I haven't used mine yet - well, I finally decided what I'm doing, and I'll be doing it this weekend!  But you'll have to come to the party to hear what I did...

And remember - we're going to continue sharing stories through January (or whenever you do use your $5) - so don't give up!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Letter

"I struggled mightily with this simple project! There have, of course, been endless opportunities to give to wonderful causes. But in the last couple weeks I realized I have been trying too hard to find THE PERFECT opportunity - something that would allow my $5 to grow exponentially...like feed many hungry families, change the life of a sick child or maybe even save the world. I had to stop the grandiose thinking. Then a week ago, I woke to God's message to me.

My story began a year ago when a good friend died, leaving an adult daughter. I had spent six years of my life with this daughter and her father, and came into their lives when the daughter was only 3 years old. When my friend found out about his cancer a year and a half ago, we met at a restaurant where we talked openly about his illness and decided we wanted to get together again, and this time include our children who had grown up together. Although I had seen the daughter several times over the years, it had been at least 5 years since the last time. So we tried to find a date that would work for the reunion with our children, but couldn't get it to happen before my friend died. After his death, I began putting together an album of the photos I had taken from "back in the day", and have been adding to it here and there. I saw the daughter at the funeral of course and we committed to getting together, but she hasn't responded to communication attempts. I let it go for almost a year now, but this photo album has been sitting in a drawer, and recently began calling to me. As I've been praying about the $5, this daughter and the album have continued to be present in my thoughts more and more in the past few weeks. One morning I woke up to a clear message - "Write a letter and send the photo album to her before Christmas." I wrote a letter to this woman who has meant so much to me. I marched over to PostNet with my $5 and mailed it off. I hope I will hear from her, but if I don't, it doesn't matter. I've told her what a gift she was to me and always will be."

Nancy S.

Thanks, Nancy!  It just goes to show - not all of our God prompts will lead us to strangers...  Some of us have people in our own lives that could use a reminder that they are loved!

Jumpin' Gifts!

"Well...I did it!

I took the $5 from church, $20 Mary G. gave me for the sign I made for her, and some of my pocket money and made up five gift bags for Good Samaritan Inver Grove Heights holiday gifts. Each bag had a 'jumping jack' or 'jumpin jill' wooden toy (the little wooden gymnast things that flip when you squeeze the handles---I make those), a book of 20 'Forever' stamps, and yummy chocolate bar, and a peppermint stick. Sandy B. gave me the idea. I told the woman in charge to give me a call if they still needed some gifts. (They get donations from the people in the community, and give a gift to each resident.) I walked out of there feeling warm and GOOD inside.

I still want to go together with people to give to KIVA. And Heifer International will also get something out of me. Chuck is going to multiply his $5 by 10, and give $50 to the Salvation Army.

Thanks for the great idea!"

Dawn E.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Neighborly Outreach

"Well, this was a unique opportunity. One should always think of our money as God's but this put an interesting spin on the challenge and the fun because it was specifically designated as such! In my first few days of prayer, I discerned that my growth of that money was towards that of God's kingdom during this special time in the calendar year, close to Christmas. This is the season when I focus on God and often - children.

I had heard of a new Christian value store opening in Knollwood Mall (and linked that with a 1 yr old in our neighborhood that I met at our summer picnic potluck.) I finally was in that vicinity and visited that store. Another serendipity was the fact that everything in the store was ........ $5!!! I found a nice but subtle child's prayer book about tucking in all of God's animals for the night that I thought any child would enjoy. Yesterday, I wrapped up that book, added a card that expressed my thoughts of God and children at Christmas, included a SPUMC 'business card', and delivered it to a neighbors' house. It didn't appear that they were home and I was also a bit excited that they would simply find the gift as a surprise, again 'soft-pedaling' the delivery and meaning to provide a more comfortable reception for them as I don't know if they have a church home so I thought this could be a good way to plant an idea with my prayers included.

Now, the fun part! Wait to see what God can do with our gift - with a reminder that we may be the last to know or may never know. However, I feel good to know that I have reached out on God's behalf to someone who may need to know him and honored to have been a possible vessel of the true gift of Christmas!"

Andrea L.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just a Thought

I was in a meeting last week, and many of us were mentioning this "Living A Better Story" project.  Some mentioned what they had done with their money, others talked about how this little bit of money - a whole $5 - has reeked havoc in their life.  How they're treating it like it's $5000!

During the coarse of conversation, one of the people talked about a chat they had last week with a Salvation Army bell ringer.  He had asked her how it was going this year and she responded with more than a little disappointment.

She said that people were often very nice as they walk in and out of the store.  They often say "Hi" or "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" but very few put any money in her kettle.  She said that in discussing this with other bell ringers, everyone is seeming to have the same luck. 

As I listened to this story...  I thought, "I haven't put anything in yet this year, either!"  I'm usually pretty good about always putting something in.  The thing is..  I don't carry cash much anymore...  So I usually don't have anything to put in the kettle.  So I'm one of the people dashing our bell ringers' hopes!

I found some cash in a jar at home.  I put it in my purse.  The next time I pass a bell ringer, I'm going to put money in the pot.  And if I'm somewhere where I can buy them a cup of hot coca and say "thank you" - I will.  Somebody did that for me once when I used to ring the bell.

Have you noticed a person or a place that could use a little extra encouragement?  A little extra Christmas cheer?  What can you do to help this week?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Heifer International

"After praying and meditating on what to do with the $5, I was drawn to the idea that it should be something life changing. But how could just $5 be used as a life changing gift? It was shortly after that I saw the gift catalogs from Heifer International and World Vision. I thought maybe this is where the money should go, but maybe not. $5 won't buy even a chicken or a rabbit. So I prayed and thought some more without feeling any direction on how to use the $5. Then on Sunday December 5th the answer came as I was reading the church bulletin. Mike and Megan Adams were having an open house and the invitation stated: "No need to bring hostess gifts or goodies to share. Instead, please consider bringing a small donation for Heifer International." The pooling of funds just might get a chicken or a rabbit or maybe even a goat!"

Barb J.

Barb - I have your $5 set aside with a note: "Towards Barb's goat!"  Thanks so much for chipping in!  We'll be sure to update everyone on what we were able to purchase for Heifer International.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Santa's Toys

"Marge and I have given a $10 toy to Santa's toys. I am a member of the Northern Dakota County Golden K Kiwanis. Next Wednesday (Dec 8) at our meeting Santa's helpers will be at our meeting and at that time I will give them the toy for children who are less fortunate."

Ken K.

Thanks, Ken!  I'm sure some little kid will be over-joyed at their new toy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Life in the Parsonage

I follow this blog called "Life in the Parsonage" - written by a mom and wife of a pastor.  Her post today shared about the craziness of how our culture tries to live up to Christmas, how it seems hypocritical to make the holiday about spending money on gifts, rather than just enjoying the gift that is Jesus.

It's not a judgemental post - just her struggle with the holiday.  I think many of us feel the same things at times.

Check it out - it's good stuff!

On another note...  I heard some more of your "Living a Better Story" experiences last night!  Be sure to send them in, so I can type them up and share them here!  Here's some hints:
*Christmas presents for abused kids
*A Thanksgiving turkey for a woman who realized, at the grocery store, that she couldn't afford it!
*Small gifts for lonely senior citizens
*Lunch money for a child

Keep 'em coming!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Momastery

If you have a moment today, please check out this blog post. I started reading her blog earlier this fall - and I think she is the kind of person we all seek to be. She lives her faith in amazing and generous ways - and humbles me each and every time she posts with humor and excitement about what God is asking her to do next.
If she had God's $5... I think she would change the world - with just $5.

Inspiring.

PS: I've added her link on the side bar so we can follow her!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

$5.00

At the beginning of November, we handed out $5 to everyone in our congregation with the challenge of 1) praying about it for three days - what would God have me do with this money in order to make a difference in somebody else's life? 2) do something with it. Make a difference. 3) come back and tell the congregation my "Living a Better Story" experience.
It's November 29th. I still have my $5.

About a week ago, I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream. I KNEW what I was supposed to use it for! I felt like God had told me exactly what to do and how to do it. I lay there, awake and excited, figuring out the details of how to execute my plan... I got up, went to the bathroom, got a drink of water, settled back into bed - all the while thinking of my new God-given strategy to use the $5 in some generous and wonderful way. I fell back to a restful sleep...

The next morning... I couldn't remember my dream.

I thought and thought... Nothing.

And no new ideas.

I went to work and told my pastor about it. Her thought? "That's why God told Moses to write the commandments down!" Ha ha ha. Very funny.

I've had a lot of fun listening to other people's stories... and I have a new place I'm planning to start volunteering at that I learned of from someone else's "Living A Better Story" experience... But that $5 is still in my purse, waiting for the perfect moment.

Here's a prayer I read today - I'm saying it in hopes that God will hear my plea for an idea on how to serve Him best!

"O Lord, what an amazing opportunity you have set out before me - a chance to make a difference for you in a desperately hurting world. Help me to see the needs you want me to see, to react in a way that honors you, and to bless others by serving them gladly with practical expressions of your love. Help me be Jesus' hands and feet, and through your Spirit give me the strength and wisdom I need to fulfill your plan for me in my own generation. In Jesus' name I pray, amen."
--Max Lucado, "Out Live Your Life"

Megan A.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Scrapbooking with $5

"The students I work with are unique individuals. They are special. There are 4 girls that are extra special to me. They are all hard workers, they don't slack off and they are kind people. Oh and they are all seniors. All of these girls come from backgrounds that are not "traditional."  By that I mean they all have been diagnosed with a special education label...LD, EBD, TBI etc etc... Most come from one parent households and one of those is single dad...

Awhile ago I read a blog about scrapbooking the 25 days in December before Christmas. A friend and fellow blogger, Jill Kane, has been doing this for a few years. I took a great interest in this and went out and bought some stuff to do something similar.

The night of the day I bought the supplies I was having a hard time sleeping. During my praying time I again asked for guidance for "Living A Better Story." Again nothing came to mind... I was getting a bit frustrated... So I fell asleep and about 2 am...I awoke from a dream and said "that's it!" The dream was about scrap-booking with my senior girls...I know this is an important and exciting time in their lives..all have worked hard and deserve to have some concrete memories.

So.. the part I am still working on is organizing and then presenting the ideas to the girls. It will either be a super easy sell or they will think I am nuts! But either way I am really excited about this...

I am needing to get supplies and develop their pictures on an ongoing basis. The $5 will be a good start...but I am hoping to get some donations of scrapbook supplies, cameras, etc...if you have any of the fore mentioned and would like to help me out..I would so appreciate it!"

Beth J.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Multiplying our Riches

"Dear Megan,

I'm writing to connect on 'Living a Better Story.'  I felt God telling (leading) me to use the $5 towards something to benefit those with certain health conditions (partly because of my recent health scare). 

Also, I was so touched by our young Maggi W. - giving up her hair for 'Locks of Love' - it touched me so (all the more with my long thick hair).

To get to the point -
In spring of 2009, I gave many of my hats to a friend from our former church, going through chemo - for breast cancer.  Mary shared later that Regions Hospital has hats available for the taking for those that need them.

I connected with Regions Cancer Care Center and I was told of a group - Chrysalisides - 30 people that provide cloth hats (sew, deliver, etc) to 20 different sites: 4 within Regions, United Hospital, Children's Hospital, and a site in Hastings.  They do hats for women, children, and men; cancer patients, neurological and epilepsy patients, people with hair loss, and brain trauma and surgery patients.

I just love hats and felt the blessing of being cleared of any cancer possibility and that it could be used in the broader community. 

The woman in charge of Chrysalisides will be writing me with the receipt to let me know how many hats I provided - when they buy their materials. 

I added to the $5 - even so, usually 1 yard of material can make up to 6 hats - so it goes pretty far!

It was a wonderful experience. 

We already donate to many charitable organizations.  I felt this was something personal and because of prayerful thought, felt led to do so.  I hope many others are blessed and felt it was a good experience.  Thank you for bringing the idea to us - and again, what a wonderful way of doing something to multiply our richness in a wonderful God!"

Diane H.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God's Money, God's Work

A couple weeks ago at church we were all given an envelope which contained $5. We were told it was "God's money." Our assignment was to pray about it, think about how to multiply or add to it, and to use it in some way that would help do some good in whatever way we felt directed.

After pondering for a while, I was drawn to a program I heard about. It's called Hats for the Homeless and is a program in Minneapolis. They collect knitted and crocheted hats and distribute the hats to homeless people in the Twin Cities area. I decided I had just enough time to make a couple of hats in time for their 2010 due date.

At about that same time a former co-worker asked me if I could make a couple of pillows for her. I envisioned a quick, easy task sewing a few seams for a couple square pillows: zip zip zip... done! Sure, I told her. I asked if she would pay me $5 per pillow, and she agreed. I decided I would add that $10 sewing fee to the $5 God's money I already had, and would buy some yarn to make hats for homeless people.

It gets COLD in Minnesota, and I felt it was a worthwhile undertaking, to help keep someone's ears and head warm in our frigid winters. Appropriate for God's money, I felt.

After a couple of days I opened the bag containing the pillow-making materials, and I gasped. One pillow form was round (I'd never made a round pillow before), and both pillows had ropey-braid stuff to add (another thing I'd never done). I was instantly nervous and worried about how these pillows were going to turn out.

I was kicking myself for taking on the project. But.... I had planned ahead and already purchased the yarn and started knitting hats. So I knew I had to attempt these pillows no matter what.


This is a picture of the finished pillows. They're not perfect, but they turned out better than I anticipated. I won't tell you how many h.o.u.r.s. I spent on these pillows. Way more than $5 worth on each, but that was what I quoted, and I was the one who failed to ask any questions. So it goes.

I figure the pillows were part of my service to humanity, along with the hats that I'm in the process of making.

No one said that doing God's work or spending God's money was supposed to be easy. These pillows were not easy. And truthfully, neither are the hats (although they are much more enjoyable to me than fussing with these pillows). I think it's appropriate that I'm getting a brain and hand and patience work-out while working on God's projects. It gives me time to think more carefully about who will use these items and what thoughts I am pouring into them.

May these items keep ears and heads warm, heads and bodies rested, and bring a modicum of warmth and peace to the recipients.

Carol E. at Giraffe Dreams

Monday, November 22, 2010

Family Giving

I was a guest at your Sunday church service when the idea of "Living A Better Story" experience was presented.  Because I was not a member of the church, it was with hesitation I accepted the blue envelope.  I considered quietly laying the envelope down on the pew as I left the sanctuary.  I am happy I didn't.  After reading the words that accompanied the $5.00, it was clear to me that it did not matter that I was not a member.  God was asking me to slow down, take a moment, and take a look. 


What I saw were many homeless people waiting to get out of a chilly evening and into a warm building called the "Listening House".  Listening House is a day and evening shelter that serves a diverse population of single men and women.  It's original mission stated "Don't preach, don't fix, just listen."  And since it's founding in 1983, Listening House has be dubbed "the living room for the homeless."  The volunteers there spend a lot of time just listening to the homeless making the people feel valued and accepted.  Listening House offers services from hygiene care, a sock exchange program to mailing address and telephone contacts for potential landlords and employers.  The staff of Listening House manages 36 voice mail boxes which provides a way to receive messages without having to disclose the status of being homeless. 


This is where your $5.00 took me.  I called and spoke with Julie.  I asked what my family and I could donate.  Their list was very modest...chapstick, cold medication, socks, and gloves.  With your $5.00 and our family contribution, we filled a Target cart and were able to deliver several bags for the men and women who find comfort at the Listening house.  We left with smiles on our faces remembering what Christmas is all about.  Thank You for reminding us.  Thank You for letting us be a part of "Living A Better Story" experience.  
      
Nancy J. and Family 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Generosity

I recently received a newsletter from the St Paul Area Council of Churches...  with a great article about Generosity!  I thought I'd share some pieces of it with you:

"I have always been impressed and moved by the generosity of American Indians...

"When my friend Steve Charleston was elected Bishop of Alaska, Minnesota Episcopalians had a celebration at our diocesan convention.  In thanks, Steve gave a gift to everyone who was there.

"Across from the receptionist's desk at the St. Paul Area Council of Churches is a beautiful print by Sam English entitled, 'The Give Away.'  It depicts American Indians sharing what they have with an unseen other.

"I come from the Pacific Northwest where there is a strong potlatch tradition among the indigenous tribes.  They would use the potlatch celebration as a way to offer thanks for their bounty and to share what they had with other tribes.

"Generosity is a profound American Indian virtue across the United States and Canada: you share what you have with those who have not so much, knowing the day may come when you may have little.  Generosity spreads the wealth, helps to overcome poverty, builds trust, and creates friendship.

"I recently attended the First Peoples Fund Community Spirit Awards.  These awards honor American Indian artists for their art, but not as individuals.  Instead they are honored for how they have shared their gifts with the community and enriched the life of their community.  That's why they are called "community spirit" awards.  As I sat in the audience watching and listening to the work of these artists, I thought about the differences between a community-based society and an individualistic and materialistic society.

"...Are we really richer if a few have way more than enough and too many have nowhere near enough?  Are we really richer if every individual has to get his or her own, instead of sharing with one another?  Am I really more important than my community?  Did I really get to where I am today all on my own?

"...Though the secular culture tends to reinforce getting over giving, the material over the spiritual, and the individuals over the community, there remains a strong community spirit in Minnesota.  We need to continue to nurture that community spirit.  It is the better spirit of America...  It was the spirit that helped my ancestors survive in Eastern Oregon.  It is the spirit that will keep Minnesota strong.  It is the spirit that can bring us together across barriers that divide us.  We are our brother's and sister's keeper.  We need one another, if we really want to prosper as a community.

"Generosity goes beyond being liberal in sharing of material resources, there is also a spiritual generosity captured in this definition: 'freedom from pettiness in mind and character; noble-minded; magnanimous; unprejudiced.'  Generosity is about character.  It is a way of being together.  It is about people who believe, as Senator Paul Wellstone used to say, 'We are all better off when we are all better off.'  This is not about suppressing the individual.  Quite the contrary.  It is about nurturing every person to become as successful as possible and, at the same time, nurturing in every person a desire to share her or his gifts and prosperity with others."
--A Note form Grant, St. Paul Area Council of Churches

(When we were at Rosebud Reservation last summer, I had a delightful conversation with a Native American woman about celebrating her new great-grandson with a potlatch ceremony!  So cool to know that this little lady (who didn't have much) was ready to celebrate this new life by giving to others!  What a great tradition...)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hat Money

I received God’s Money in church ($5) and wondered where inspiration would lead me. Shortly after receiving God’s Money I heard about a group called Hats for the Homeless. It’s a group in Minnesota collecting hand-knit hats. The hats are distributed to homeless people, but not just randomly. The people get to look over all the hats and pick out the hat that they want! I like that personal touch.

A couple weeks later a co-worker asked me to do a little sewing project for her. She is going to pay me. I plan to put my sewing income with the $5 and buy some yarn. I’ll be able to make two or three hats and get them to the Hats for Homeless program before their due date. I’m glad I can help keep some ears warm in this cold state of Minnesota!

Carol E.

What a creative use for the $5!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

God's Money Story

I was watching the morning news while getting dressed for work and they had a story about “Be a Santa to a Senior.” Seniors are the forgotten population during the holidays...especially those in senior citizen housing. When asked what they would like for Christmas, they often say simple things like paper and pencils. “Hmmm....I could afford that with God’s money.” Santa delivers the gifts to the seniors and their faces light up exactly like little kids’ faces when he arrives. Then the reporter talked about how when the Santa came back for the 2nd year to visit “Mary” – he saw that the only thing on Mary’s bulletin board was the Christmas card they gave her last year and the only thing she had received all year long was the gift they brought her last year.

So, my daughter and I found the location of one of the gift trees and used my $5 to buy stamps for a senior. Also on her gift request were an assortment of birthday and get well cards. My daughter purchased those. And then we picked out another gift tag for a scarf and candy.


Hope that God’s money puts a smile on their faces this holiday.

Diane P.

Thanks, Diane!  What a simple and easy thing to do to make a big difference in a person's life!

Keep those stories coming!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Living a Better Story!!!

Here's our first story to roll in...  and I've been hearing rumors of more!  Send them in so we can share with one another!

Hi Megan.

 I received $5 of God's Money. For many years, I have sent $10 to the Union Gospel Mission at Easter,Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year I got the Thanksgiving envelope in the mail and "lost" it, either through distraction or apathy! I feel strongly about the homeless situation since I was in a very similar situation many years ago and understand that homelessness does not necessarily mean laziness. The fact that I "lost" the envelope bothered me but I did nothing about it. Then at church last week I received God's Money and it was a no-brainer. I received another envolope and sent a check for $10 so that 5 homeless people can have a good dinner. This giving business was catching so I plan to give the actual $5 of God's Money to my hairdresser who is raising a son on her own as an extra "tip". Thank you for suggesting this great idea. It has got me in the giving spirit again.

Elaine D.  (permanent visitor)

Thanks, Elaine!  What wonderful ideas and ways to spread a little holiday cheer!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Solitude

"We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look  at ourselves in the mirror."
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Part of talking about Meditation is also approaching the habit of Solitude...  How can we focus solely on God when we are surrounded by other people?  by constant noise and distractions?  We can't.  In order to take time to feed our souls, we need to take time to be alone.  And be quiet.  In today's culture this may seem like a weird concept... but followers of all faiths have been disciplined in solitude for centuries!  It has always been recognized as a way to further a faith journey with full concentration on the one thing that matters more than all else...  God.

"The desire of Solitude is to leave people behind and enter into time alone with God...

"...The practice of Solitude includes: giving God time and space that is not in competition with social contact, noise or stimulation; taking a retreat; communing with God alone while you walk or run by yourself; practicing disciplines alone - study, prayer, examen, journaling, etc...

"...The fruit of Solitude includes: liberation from constantly living your life in reference to other people; quieting the internal noise so you can better listen to God; giving yourself time and space to internalize what you already know...

"In solitude the heart waits for God, and God alone.  Here the soul opens wide to listen and receive."
--Adele Calhoun, "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook"

How will you find some time for solitude this week?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why

"The practice of Meditation includes: mulling over, chewing on and ruminating over God's Word and it's application; meditating on people - seeing them as God sees them and expressing delight in them as God does; paying attention to God with your body by slowing down, relaxing and breathing deeply; meditating on Jesus and Scripture...

"...The fruit of Meditation includes: seeing beyond a first glance and first impression to the heart of God; developing a depth of insight; experiencing calmness, serenity, and quietness stemming from an awareness of the nearness of God."
--Adele Calhoun, "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook"

We practice spending time focusing on God through scripture, nature, people, and events in order to experience the confidence that God is near and with us all of the time.  When we can live into that knowledge, we can live in peace and confidence in our daily lives.

How are you going to meditate on God this week?  What kind of meditation appeals to you?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Meditation

"Meditation is slowing down and giving one's undivided attention to God - this lies at the core of Christian meditation."

"'God walks everywhere incognito.' - CS Lewis.  Clues to his presence can be found in creation, in history, in human beings, in worship, and in scripture.  But we must stop and pay attention."
--Adele Calhoun, "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook"

Meditation.  Sounds "New Age-y", doesn't it?  Are you picturing crystals, flute music, chanting, sitting lotus-style?  Yeah...  Those can be ways to meditate, too... but that's not what we're talking about with Christian meditation.

We're simply talking about the idea of taking a break from the distractions of daily life and focusing on God.  That's it.  And there are many ways to do it!  The ways most often recommended?
*  Meditating on Scripture - read the Bible and think about what it means.  You can do as little as one verse at a time...
*  Meditating on God's creation - spend time in nature (and recognize God in it)!
*  Meditating on world events - what's happening in the world?  How do you feel about it?  Where is God in the situation?  How is God calling you to respond?
*  Meditating on the lives of individuals - we all know people who need prayers.  Spend time focused on their situation and trying to see where God is in it.  How is God calling you to be present to the person?  Or maybe there is someone that has been a faith role model in your life - meditate, or think about - what they've taught you about God and being in the world.  How is God calling you to respond to what you've learned through this person?

We've talked about prayer... about fasting...  about worship... about simplicity.
Meditation is just another way - or piece - to living the Christian life.  To separating ourselves from the chaos and constant distraction of our culture and finding the time to connect with God.

Try it.  I triple-dog dare you!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday at SPUMC - July 4th, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

For the month of July, we will be taking a moment to be still and focus on Meditation and Solitude. And what a perfect time for these habits! With gorgeous weather that invites us to go for walks, watch a sunset, or go for a paddle—it’s the perfect time to be still and know that God is.


“In Christian Meditation we seek to clear our minds of the clutter that prevents us from focusing our thoughts on how God is at work in us and in the world.”

“Solitude opens a space where we can bring our empty and compulsive selves to God. And no matter how ‘well’ we do silence, God is there to accept, receive and love us.”

“The Spiritual Disciplines are things that we do. We must never lose sight of this fact… If that does not somehow work itself into our experience, then we have missed the point of the Disciplines. We’re dealing with actions, not merely states of mind.”

“Silence reminds me to take my soul wherever I go…” —a little girl describing the feeling of silence.


We Meditate on what we are Thankful for; We Meditate on how to be Generous;

We Meditate in the Simplicity of daily life; We Meditate in the experience of Worship;

We Meditate when Praying; We Meditate while Fasting for the hurts of the world;

We Meditate on what we Celebrate in the blessings of our lives; and We Meditate when we allow ourselves to be humbled and Guided by the Holy Spirit into a life of Service.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rosebud Reservation 2010 - Day 6

We're packed and ready to go.  Many of us with heavy hearts.

We began the day at devotions with the other groups for one last day...  A beautiful morning, outside, with the sun shining down on the Tree of Life grounds.  Russell inspired yet again.  Life is good.

We went back to the house, cleaned our rooms, the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and living room.  Loaded up the cars.  And took a couple of last minute photos as we headed out of town.
(Good-bye Guest House!  You've been a nice home for us this week!)
(The group in front of the Tree of Life storefront.)

9 hours back home.  We stopped for lunch... and later for gas (and ice cream)... and just kept driving!

Many of our conversations in the car centered around our experiences.  Questions we still had.  Hopes for the future.  Comparisons to past mission trips.  But yet... so much of it was hard to put into words.  It would take awhile for the a-ha moments, the confusion, the weights upon our hearts, and the inspired God whisperings to come to life and be able to put them into words...  (As I write this, it is actually July 14th and some of my feelings are still beyond the formation of words.)

But stay tuned!  And plan to be in church on August 1st - when we will tell you all about the trip and will be available to answer your questions!

"God has no hands or feet or voice except ours and through these he works."
--Teresa of Avila

"Good deeds are like a pebble cast into a pond: they create ripples that spread in all directions.  Our acts of service in our homes and communities become part of an ever-widening circle of compassion that eventually encompasses the entire creation.  In this interconnected world, we live locally knowing that our actions have an impact globally."
--Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, "Spiritual Literacy"

(Photos courtesy of Carol E. and Megan A.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rosebud Reservation 2010 - Day 5

Well, we had an interesting night last night!  After returning from our day trips, showering, having dinner, and relaxing together for the evening...  we eventually went off to our bunks, very ready for a good night's sleep!

There was a pounding on the front door around 11pm.  Now, we had been told it was possible that beggers would stop by the guest house, but they have been told that's not ok and we were told not to open the door.  So we didn't.  From my room, I didn't hear anything else and assumed the person had moved on.  But a little while later I was told he was still on our porch...  seemingly planning to spend the night there.

One of our group members was especially concerned about this - since her bedroom had a door to the front porch (I don't blame her!).  She asked if it was ok to call the police to come ask the man to move somewhere else.  We agreed that would be ok....

So we called Google 911 to get some local law enforcement phone numbers.  First, we called the Rosebud Reservation Tribal Police - and got an answering machine.  Then, we called the town of Mission's police - and got an answering machine.  Next, we called the Todd County sheriff - and guess what?  Got an answering machine!  Lastly, we just dialed 911... and never got connected.

It really goes to show how a lack of funding and resources affects how a community can keep their residents safe.  We were fine - our visitor was just sleeping off a night of drinking (and the other group that was staying in our house came home while we making phone calls).  But earlier in the week we had heard that there had been 4 deaths the previous weekend - 1 accident, 1 illness related death, 1 that I never heard the cause of, and 1 young woman who was beaten to death by her husband or boyfriend.

After our difficulties finding a law enforcement officer... my heart just broke thinking of this young woman.  What if she had been trying to get help - to no response?  What a horrible reality to know that help is so limited and not exactly something you could count on.  Something we take for granted in our safe lives!  Something to think about...

Today would be our last full day of work - and boy, did we WORK today (after our morning devotions with Russell and the other volunteers, of course)!

Beth R. continued her position in the Thrift Store - lovingly taking care of customers all day.

Carol took her turn in the sewing room - making quilts (of course!).

Amy decided to help serve meals in the Warm Welcome Center - and what a busy day she had providing meals to the many customers that came in getting ready for their weekends! 

And Beth J., Kathy, and Megan ended up working in the warehouse most of the day - bagging thousands of pounds of donated corn and potatoes for people to take home for their Fourth of July weekend!  (Ask Kathy or Beth about the corn and they will likely break into a fit of giggles!)  This seemed like hot, dirty, menial work to do all day long - but when we put it into perspective of how we are able to serve others...  It was definately worth spending the day this way.  (And we got to meet several of the people who picked up the food - all very kind, friendly, warm-hearted individuals!)
(Bringing in ANOTHER box of corn!)
(Even Beth R. came out to help stock corn in the store!)
(This is what Megan did for most of the day - with the help of a teenage boy named Avery, we went through a bag and a half of potatoes!  Uffda!)

After relaxing for a bit in the afternoon, we began our busy and fun-filled evening!  It started out at a craft fair at the local college - Sinte Gleska College.  Many people from the reservation brought out their jewelry, paintings, bone carvings, beadwork, etc etc.  All beautiful!  I think we each bought at least one thing to bring home... some of us a little more...

Then we headed across the street to have some "Indian Tacos" for dinner - YUM!  Pretty close to our tacos, but served on fry bread.  Delicious. 

And while we were eating, we made a new friend.  Steve is a teacher at the college - teaching about the Lakota Sioux culture through art and traditional dress and crafts.  He was fascinating to listen to!  He taught us about how to make moccasins, handgames sticks, porcupine quill bracelets, etc - and he had an interesting personal history to boot!  He grew up outside the reservation, but when his young daughters decided they wanted to learn traditional dance, he began learning about his culture from scratch!  He eventually brought them to the reservation and has been learning ever since - he's even a consultant for national museum exhibits (including the Smithsonian).  After talking with and listening to him for almost an hour, several of us were wondering if it would ever be possible to give up 4 weeks of our summer to come take his class...  Fascinating!

We headed back to our house, thinking our evening was over - and were happy to see that there was another speaker lined up at the house!  A flutist!  This was a man who played the traditional Indian flute - a beautiful, haunting, earthy sounding instrument.  He told stories, made us laugh (a lot), told us about his life and what he sees as strengths and challenges on the reservation... including gangs and drug use.  As a teacher of young kids, he tries to influence them towards making good choices in their lives - from our viewpoint, he seemed a wonderful role model for the local kids!  He ended the presentation by playing "Amazing Grace" on his flute... and made the tears fall.  A really special, moving experience for our last night on the reservation.

Once the house quieted down, our group met for our last evening of devotions.  We talked about the Spiritual Habit of Celebration and shared the things that we were celebrating about the trip - including what strengthened our faith, what challenged our faith, and where we had felt God's presence in the week.  It was a wonderful conversation - full of laughter and some tears, all of us sad to be leaving the next day.  We ended with sharing affirmations about each other - affirming each others strengths, talents, and ways of reaching out to each other and the community we were serving.  Our prayer was a prayer of thanks for such a wonderful experience with such an amazing community.

"The discipline of service begins with humility and ends with humility...  We can humbly serve others because we know who we are: children of God.  This knowing frees us to have the heart of a servant, even if we can't fulfill the need in front of us at the moment."
--Valerie Hess, "Habits of a Child's Heart"

"The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
--Frederick Buechner

(All photos courtesy of Carol E. and Megan A.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rosebud Reservation 2010 - Day 4

A day off?!  Already?  It feels like we just got started!

Oh well...  I guess we'll suck it up and do some exploring!

No devotions with the whole group this morning, so instead we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the house and planned our day.  Kathy, Beth J., Beth R., and Megan would head out to the Badlands and Wall Drug; and Carol and Amy would stay a little closer to Rosebud and explore the Nebraska town of Valentine - waterfall and all!

A few pictures from the Badlands adventure:
(Kathy, Beth, and Beth.  Notice the haze in the air?  It's at least 98 degrees!)
(Megan - enjoying a picturesque rest...)
(Our new friend - a bighorn sheep!)
(Yikes!)
(Lunch and some fun at Wall Drug!)

And a couple from the beautiful waterfall (perfect in 98 degree weather!):
(A perfect way to enjoy a hot day!)

And now, to continue sharing about Tree of Life Ministry, here are interesting facts about the Rosebud Reservation and the ministry being done there:

"*  7 of the poorest 11 counties in the USA are the reservations of the Sioux Tribe.  South Dakota's average household income is $39,000/year, but on the Rosebud reservation it is only $7,200/year.  Unemployment is 80%.  To have an idea of what a yearly income of $7,200 would be - try living on a grocery budget of $21 a week.
*  Because of this poverty, health is very poor on the reservation.  70% of the population suffers from diabetes.  The average life span for a man is 54 years old, 58 for a woman.  Suicide is twice as high as the national average, and 4 times as high among teens.  70% of 12 year olds through adults suffer from alcoholism.  (Alcohol poisoning is not an uncommon cause of death amongst children and teens.)
*  Tree of Life Ministry has been on the reservation since 1986 - since it's humble beginnings, it has grown to the 2nd largest destination for United Methodist Volunteers in Missions.  In 2008, 1,300 volunteers from 10 different denominations came to the Rosebud Tree of Life location.
*  The mission of Tree of Life is to build a "bridge of trust" between the Sioux and the Church.  Because of the negative meaning given to the ideas of "Christian" and "church," we usually just say we "walk the Jesus path."  An enemy is not interested in hearing about your faith, so we must first show that we are worthy of trust, and able to be a friend showing the love of Jesus.  As these bridges are built, dialogue might begin on an individual basis, and the good news may be shared and understood.  The Tree of Life mission statement says, "Nurture the Body, Strengthen the Culture, Enhance the Spirit."

In summary, Tree of Life is building a bridge of trust between the Sioux and those who follow the Jesus Path.  Most of our history with the Sioux has been filled with treachery, betrayal and lies by the Wasicu ("those who take the fat", meaning that we often took the filet of meat and left the natives with the poorest cuts).  We are part of a generation that seeks to overcome our past history and offer respect and understanding.  We are called to reach out in friendship to those who live on the reservation, and show them the essence of real Christian faith.  The Sioux are a joyful and friendly people, who consider us to be "mi-tak-u-ye o-ya-sin" (all my relatives)."
--Facts taken from the Tree of Life information packet handed out at orientation


"When the world looks at the church, they should see something different.  They should see something that's so different from their own way of doing things, in fact, that they're compelled to ask what causes the difference to happen.  The ability to live an unselfish life, to really be able to pour yourself out in service to others, makes people sit up and take notice...

"...Are we using what we do have?  Are we willing to step out there and let God pick up the slack?  Amazing things can happen, you know."
--John Ed Mathison, "Treasures of a Transformed Life"

(All photos courtesy of Carol E. and Megan A.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rosebud Reservation 2010 - Day 3

Day 3 - Already?!  It seems like time is flying!

Again, we woke up, shared breakfast together and headed to the main building for morning devotions.  It really is such a nice way to start the day - outside, listening to all kinds of inspiring things, and laughing together.
(Carol's ready and waiting for what we might learn today!)

And we're off - ready to head to our jobs for the day:

Beth J., Carol, and I headed to the town of St. Francis to help some kindergarten-3rd graders with their reading skills.  We were able to listen to their morning lesson, help them pronounce, read, and write their words for the week and learn a little bit about their lives in the process.  We played at recess (man, I got tagged a lot!).  We sat down with them at the lunch table, accompanied them through the free-book-mobile (where they were able to take 3 books home for free!), and read and played with them til it was time to go home.  This was summer school - a class of about 14.  Their teacher, Mrs. G, was amazing - so devoted to these kids!  Her warmth and dedication was inspiring to all of us.  And the kids!  They were so fun, so smart, and so deperately wanting attention and love - and that, we were able to give in abundance!  (I think many of us wish we could have done this all week!)
(Mrs. G and Clinton)
(Lunchtime!)
(Carol and Logan)
(Victoria, Beth J., and Lakota)
(McKenzie, Kalieb, Megan, and Lakota)
(Reading their new "Berenstein Bears" Book!)

Amy got to help with gardening and landscaping around the grounds today. She loved the hard, dirty work - and the areas she cleaned up looked beautiful when she was done!

Beth R. returned to her post in the thrift shop - she loved it so much, she didn't want to try anything else!

And Kathy tried her hand at working in the sewing room - making curtains and shopping bags.  A nice way to spend part of the day - quiet, air-conditioned, and self-directed.

After our days of work, back to the house for some relaxation, showers, and quiet time.  And Amy continues to take good care of us with great meals!

Since we got home early today, I took some pictures of our house.  Let me show you around!
(The living room - many evenings spent talking, laughing, and (some of the team) knitting here!)
(Our breakfast nook - another nice place to hang out together.)
(A typical bedroom.  Since we were a small group, we had the upstairs 3 bedrooms - so only two of us to each bedroom.)

Tonight our activity choices were 1) Participating in a traditional Sweat Lodge Ceremony or 2) Learning the story behind and how to make Dreamcatchers.

Beth J. and I decided to brave the sweat lodge ceremony.  Uffda.  That is HOT!  But so amazing.  Our tribal leader, or medicine man, was Duane Hollow Horn Bear.  He is a well-respected leader among the Sioux, has had a fascinating life (including being part of the boarding schools when he was young, has overcome drug and alcohol abuse to be a powerful role model to his people today AND he has traveled all over the world trying to get other countries to recognize the Reservations as sovereign nations - even as far as having an audience with the Pope!).  He did a wonderful job of explaining the spirituality of his culture, of explaining the purpose and power of the sweat lodge prayer ceremony, he sang tribal songs, told the creation story, and all-in-all made me greatful to be in his presence.  As we began the ceremony, the door closed to the tent-like lodge, the heat rose up to almost unbearable, the darkness was complete, and Duane began to sing in the Lakota language...  It became a powerful, prayer time.  It was so easy to find myself meditating on all thet I was learning and asking God to open my eyes more and more everyday...  And God certainly found a way to open my heart as well.  A beautiful experience.
(This is the lodge a couple of days later - no pictres are allowed during the ceremony since it is a sacred space.)

Here is a wonderful description of a Sweat Lodge Ceremony if you are curious to learn more.

The others went to learn about Dreamcatchers - and brought back beautiful new creations!  (I'm hoping next year to do that, too!)

Once again, the evening ended with devotionals.  We shared highs and lows of the day and read the story of the Good Samaritan.  We had an interesting discussion about the ways we see ourselves in that story and how we react to others...  It's amazing what being in a place of such poverty brings out in conversation.  Once again, we prayed our thanks and our concerns and ended the evening feeling lucky, alive, and blessed to be here!
(This is our picnic space in the backyard of our house - such a nice space to have!  And... look at those ladies holding up their Bibles!  What a good church group!)

"The best servers are not those who are the most talented, gifted, or trained.  All of these qualities are important, but the real productivity comes through connection with God.  When we are willing to get beyond ourselves and into his strength and abilities, that's when God's love flows through us and touches the lives of other people."
--John Ed Mathison, "Treasures of a Transformed Life"

"If you can't feed one hundred people, then feed just one."
--Mother Teresa

(All photos courtesy of Carol E. and Megan A.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rosebud Reservation 2010 - Day 2

Up and at 'em!

Breakfast at the house, devotions at the main ministry building.

Russell did a great job of leading morning devotions - bringing our Christian faith and the tribal spirituality into focus in a way that helps us see the beautiful similarities.  He taught us about aspects of the culture, Lakota words, and some tribal history that helps us to learn why things are the way they are.  I found myself wanting to sit and listen to Russell all day!  He was interesting.  Enthusiastic.  Funny.  And he LOVES the people on the reservation and wants so badly to help us to love them, too.  He does a wonderful job.

After devotions we were off to our jobs!  Beth J. and I headed to the clothes closet to start unpacking boxes - sorting what could be used and what should be thrown away.  We organized, hung up, folded, and made the clothes look nice for today's customers.  It's amazing how many clothes are donated!  (And how many are not able to be used...  Just a note for future donators - no corduroys or turtlenecks for the reservation.  They just get thrown out.)
(We made it through all of those boxes and MANY more throughout the day!)

Carol worked in the "Warm Welcome" the area of the thrift store that serves breakfast and lunch.  She got to help prepare and serve meals (hard work!) and chat with the people as they came through...  She was even known to entertain some little kids in the meantime!
(Carol made that pretty quilted sign for the Warm Welcome area.  Isn't it fun?)

Beth R. started out in the warehouse unpacking food items and stocking the shelves - but was quickly snatched up to work the front desk!  She loved the responsibility and the joy of talking to people and seeing their smiles as they left with what they needed.

Amy and Kathy made the drive to the town of St Francis to help tutor small kids in reading for half of the day.  A VERY rewarding way to spend the day!  When they returned, Amy went back to the house to rest and prepare our meals...
And Kathy was all over the place!  She got to work in the warehouse unloading and shelving food, making room for new shipments coming in.  Hard work!  Then, in the afternoon, she joined me in the clothes closet.  It's really amazing how many clothes you can go through in one day - and how many are taken home! 

In the afternoon, we were able to go back to the house (where Amy had chocolate chip cookies for us!), shower, eat dinner and relax before our evening activities and devotionals.

Our evening fun tonight was one of two choices:  1) Learning about Native American "Handgames" or 2) Listening to a speaker about Native American artifacts.

I chose Handgames.  I was ready for some fun and excited to hang out with the youth group kids from our house.  Our whole group decided to take part in this activity.  Midas, our teacher, is one of the people on the Rosebud Handgames team that won the national competition this year - so we were being taught by the best!  It's really a guessing game.  You hide things in your hands while the other team guesses which hand has the right object.  The fun is - you're allowed to distract and tease and have fun with the other team...  Amy decided to distract and tempt the men (when we were playing men against women) by offering them our chocolate chip cookies and cold milk.  To much laughter - it worked!  The boys couldn't help themselves, lost focus, and - lost the game!  We had so much fun laughing as we learned about this ancient game - Midas was a great teacher!
(These are the sticks you are trying to earn - all handmade!)
(These are the "bones" you hide in your hands - the "guesser" is looking for the plain one."
(Amy's "hiding the bones" while Midas teaches us the way to play.)
(The first round, Beth R. and I were on a team with some men-folk from the other group.  We won!)

After the program was over and everyone went their own ways, we spent some time talking with some of the adults staying in our house... and then got around to our devotions - again outside on such a nice night!  We shared our highs and lows of the day, read scripture, talked about what "service" really means and discussed what it means to truly "see" the needs of those around us.  To wrap up we prayed - offering thanks and lifting situations that we witnessed throughout the day that needed a little extra prayer...  A great way to end the day.

Life is good on the reservation.  Hard work, lots of smiles and laughs, learning lots, and loving this experience!

"The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."
--Albert Schweitzer

"You and I were created for a purpose, and that purpose is to serve.  His Word says that if we want to be happy and fulfilled, we'll never get there just by receiving.  We also have to give...

"...Love has to be the motivating factor."
--John Ed Mathison, "Treasures of a Transformed Life"

(Photos courtesy of Carol E. and Megan A.)